The first issue of Sticks & Stones went out to subscribers on January 1. It features my very first book review of the year: Jenene Ravesloot’s Sliders. If you’d like to subscribe to Sticks & Stones, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Newsletter.”
A few years ago, I wrote a column titled Sticks & Stones for Michael Dickes’ online magazine Awkword Paper Cut. (Those columns are now here in “This Writer’s Life.”) I still liked the name, and I decided to use it for the newsletter. The title comes from the phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” a saying kids use on the playground in response to an insult. Of course words can and do hurt, but I like the saying for its brash, stand-up-to-the-bully bravado.
My mission with this newsletter is to promote poetry and art. It’s a chance for me to “share the news” about poetry a la William Carlos Williams, and give back to the community that has given me so much.
Every issue will contain one review of a full-length poetry collection published in the last twenty-four months. That’s two per month – an ambitious goal, I know, but a challenge I look forward to.
How can one person possibly read and review two books of poetry every month? It helps to be a fast reader, but reading poetry is not like reading, say, the latest Sue Grafton mystery, zooming through the paragraphs to the climactic conclusion (RIP, Sue). When I read a book of poems with the intent of reviewing it, I slow down my reading pace, read it several times, take copious notes in the margins, and then I wait. What impressions do these poems give me? How do I feel as I read them? For me, reviewing a book is as much an intuitive activity as a logical one.
Reading poetry closely and carefully takes me to fascinating and sometimes frightening places. As I read, I am convinced of Shelley’s conclusion in his “Defense of Poetry:” “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”
I look forward to sharing these reviews with you in the New Year.